Racial Differences in the Relationship between Childhood Adverse Events and Mental Health Disorders among a Nationally Representative Sample of Adolescents

Jennifer Ahern, University of California, Berkeley
Deborah Karasek, University of California, Berkeley
Tim-Allen Bruckner, University of California, Irvine

Mental health disorders appear the exception to significant disparities by race/ethnicity in myriad health conditions, despite observed adversities that would presumably impact all health domains. Childhood adversities (CAs) are stressors that have been documented to have substantial health impacts, and may play a key role in the onset of mental health disorders in adolescence and early adulthood. Motivated by a life course perspective, we examine the racial/ethnic differences in the relation between early CAs and mental health disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey–Adolescent Supplement (NCS-A). Using data adaptive methods to model correlated exposure measures, we assess whether important combinations of childhood adverse events vary by racial/ethnic group. We find that despite higher prevalence of adversity measures among Hispanic and non-Hispanic Black adolescents, these exposures do not appear to lead to greater incident mental health disorders. Intervention on early life stressors may be important to reduce the burden of mental health disorders across racial groups.

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Presented in Session 83: Effects of Fetal and Childhood Conditions on Adult Health Outcomes